The Born-Again Balletomane's Blog

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Brief Thoughts on Getting Thrown Out (of ballet school) December 12, 2012

Filed under: ballet,ballet class — theworstat @ 12:24 am
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In the past few months I’ve read stories about two currently rising stars having been previously thrown out of ballet schools.  One was the Royal Ballet’s Melissa Hamilton (who got thrown out of Elmhurst for being too far behind the rest of the class), and the other, believe it or not, was Joy Womack (asked to leave the Kirov School because of limited flexibility and poor turnout).

Hamilton went on to follow a mentor to another country and engage in private lessons until she more than caught up; Womack, of course, is now so flexible that she almost looks dislocated (while stretching; certainly she doesn’t seem to overdo it in her dancing), and although she denies it, she has one heck of a turnout.

Obviously neither of them gave up, which is a gift to the rest of us.  But the news about these two left me wondering how many other dancers with great potential we’ve missed because at some point, somewhere, a kid got thrown out of ballet school.

In the U.S., of course, if you get thrown out of one school, you can go to another and work toward better things.  But in some countries it seems that if you are rejected, that’s it.  You go on to other things.

Not much more to say here.  Certainly ballet teachers aren’t wrong about these decisions all the time, and of course it’s heartbreaking to watch a kid doggedly pursue a career that is just wrong for them.  But once in a while, accidents must happen.

Maybe the end result is the product of the child’s own determination.  Hamilton and Womack are nothing if not determined.  But in ballet, the mirror and the teacher’s eyes also come into play.  Apparently, sometimes those give skewed feedback.


6 Responses to “Brief Thoughts on Getting Thrown Out (of ballet school)”

  1. atlantic Says:

    I read the Melissa Hamilton piece from the Daily Mail. I think that teachers in all areas can be mistaken, but I her mentor saw potential in her from the first day and turned out to be right. This pokes holes particularly in Eric Conrad’s theory about a dancer’s inability to achieve great technique at an older age (and by old I mean 15 or 16). Clearly it is possible, albeit rare, to achieve a high level of technique at a late age. So the theory about Womack, Kampa, and Hallberg might not be so solid.

    • theworstat Says:

      Wow, I’ve not been watching Conrad’s videos and didn’t know that he was questioning the ability of older students to achieve great technique. So that’s what he was basing his implied criticisms of Womack and others on….interesting.

      One wonders how Womack managed to get into the Bolshoi’s summer intensive, where she was discovered, if she was that deficient.

      Were he alive, I’m sure Rudolph Nureyev would have something to say about this, too. Come to think of it, Natalia Makarova was a tiny bit late in starting, too. She was 13.

      Really, in ballet I think 15 or 16 is the perfect age to “finish” one’s technique, and a highly talented dancer like Hallberg can pretty much adjust at any age, which by all reports, he is doing.

      • Eric Conrad Says:

        Now of course poor Joy has revealed how she was accepted into the academy and then the theater, in her own words, she had sex with most if not all of the relevant teachers, coaches, directors and basically anyone she thought would help her career, if it could be called that. She even married at 17 in order to take Russian citizenship… It’s call so very sad, and worse she’s admitting these things publicly. There are only to ways to get into Professional ballet in Russia, with $ or by selling your body. I blogged about this a few years ago and got a scathing letter from guess who, joy; now we all know why it hit a nerve. Ladies, stay away from Russian ballet, it’s not worth it. I have retired from ballet, so no emails please : I rest my case. Best Wishes

  2. atlantic Says:

    I think he says students can achieve good technique at a later age, just never to the caliber of a Russian. It seems to be stressed, particularly when he speaks about Hallberg, Womack etc that a non-Russian can never achieve the level of a Russian. His views always strike me as contradictory, but maybe I’ve been misinterpreting them.

    • theworstat Says:

      I have the impression that he has been blinded by his own training. To listen to him, you’d think there was no ballet training at all in this country. I’d like to throw in his face the NYCB’s School of American Ballet; more recently, ABT has adopted the JKO School and is starting to hire dancers from there (the problem with the school they had back in the ’70’s is that they were not generally hiring the graduates). Also, ABT is now crowing about having its own training system (via JKO) and is expanding this system into colleges, presumably to have more sources of new dancers and teachers. One can say that the corps they have now is the best they’ve ever had. Several of the corps dancers are from JKO. So maybe they’re onto something and it’s working. The proof will come if/when they start promoting these dancers.

      I admit that U.S. ballet training is still something of a mess on the local level. But in terms of the large regional companies (Boston Ballet and San Francisco Ballet come to mind), and certainly the two major national ones (NYCB and ABT) and one existing in a strange little intermediate area (the Joffrey), that no longer seems to be the case. Kids from all over the world fight to get into these companies’ schools. There has to be a reason.

      And as for a 15 year old arriving in Russia too late to master their ballet language, all I can say is that Womack learned the Russian language in a big hurry. I don’t see why the ballet language would be that much different. And apparently she either graduated at the top of her class or damn near. Once again, Conrad’s criticisms seem a little shallow and strange.

      • Eric Conrad Says:

        The New York schools are a joke, the worst case really. I taught in Russia for 10 yrs, no American student has even the concept of basic correct placement, neither do any of those teachers, obviously. Our students would not even survive my barre, and my choreography would be an impossibility

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